The Ballet Film We're Currently Swooning Over
By Jennifer Heyde
Premiering at the New York Film Festival in New York City's iconic house of ballet, Lincoln Center, Nancy Buirski's extraordinary documentary Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq is as beautiful and emotional a story as Tanny was a dancer.
Discovered at age 14 by none other than world renown choreographer, George Balanchine, Tanny quickly became the muse for whom Balanchine composed some of his most profound ballets. He was however not the only one who was transfixed by Tanny's grace and movement as another famed choreographer, Jerome Robbins, became enamored by the young dancer as well. Both men not only competed for her to be principal in their ballets but also for her affections. Tanny professed love for both however she wed only Balanchine (his fifth marriage) when she was twenty-three and he forty-eight years-old.
The film, which is artistically crafted interweaving photos and clips of Tanny with words from her personal letters and interviews with those close to her, harrowingly tells of how her career ended abruptly when she contracted Polio in 1956 while dancing in Europe. Known in many circles as the "Tragedy of Tanny" the prima ballerina never walked or danced again. She was twenty-seven. The latter half of Buirski's Afternoon of a Faun showcases not Tanny's dancing but instead her incredible resilience and perseverance in the face of permanent paralysis. Tanaquil Le Clercq was a woman of grace, talent, beauty and above all else an inspiration.